SWABIAN CASTLE OF BARI
The Swabian Castle in Bari is a massive 13C fortress which now houses a museum.
Standing on the edge of the old town, near the port and the Cathedral, with its huge bulk it is one of the city’s most important and best known monuments.
- The History
Historically attributed to the Norman King Roger II, the Castle was erected in 1131 above residential buildings from the Byzantine era, and after the destruction of the city by William the Bad it was rebuilt by Frederick II of Swabia between 1233 and 1240.
In the second half of the 13C, Charles of Anjou ordered restoration works to reinforce the Castle’s northern wing, which at that time was actually on the sea.
In the 16C, Isabella of Aragon and her daughter Bona Sforza radically transformed the Castle to respond to the development of heavy artillery, building a massive curtain wall with bastions around the Norman-Swabian core buildings, and at the same time adding Renaissance refinement to the complex’s interior.
In the following centuries, especially under Bourbon rule, the Castle was largely left to decay, and it became first a prison and then a barracks. It was not until 1937 that it became the headquarters of the Apulia and Basilicata Heritage Directorate.
In 2017, after works to restore the buildings and transform them for museum use, the Directorate’s offices were moved away and the whole of the Castle was restored to public use.
- The Building
The Norman-Swabian core has a trapezoidal ground plan with a central courtyard and three tall towers at the corners, made from heavily rusticated stone. Beyond the south-western tower (known as the “Minorenni” or “Juveniles” tower after the prison section it housed in the 19C) is the original entrance, the gateway from the time of Frederick II which leads into the central courtyard. Nowadays, this is overlooked by three saloons and a small chapel in classical style.
In the 16C, the Aragon Duchesses radically transformed the complex. Inside, the Castle acquired all the trappings of a Renaissance palace, with an elegant, impressive double staircase connecting the ground floor to the large saloons on the first floor.
- The Collection
The ground floor of the Castle’s west wing houses the Gipsoteca, a collection of plaster copies of the sculptures and carvings of the most important monuments and cathedrals in the Apulia region, created by sculptors Pasquale Duretti and Mario Sabatelli in 1911 for the Regional History Exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of Italian unification.
Also on the ground floor, visitors are able to view two small areas where archaeological digs have been conducted, revealing earlier structures dating from the Byzantine period.
Thanks to the recent restoration work, completed in October 2017. the whole of the Castle’s first floor, with the main rooms used by the Castle’s aristocratic owners, is now open to the public.
The Aragonese Room houses a permanent photographic exhibition telling the history of the Castle’s restoration and recovery for use throughout the 20C.
In the Angoina Room, visitors will find the archaeological collection of pottery obtained from the excavation of the Castle’s midden, which can be dated from the 15C to the 18C.
The Norman Room contains various unrelated stone items, while the small room on the first level of the Minorenni Tower houses jewellery and other precious items. The two largest rooms on the first floor, the Bona Sforza Room and the Frederick II Room, are used for temporary exhibitions and cultural events.
from Tuesday to Sunday from 9.00 to 19.00
Last admission one hour before closing time
Extra Opening times
21 november : from 18:00 to 21:00
Lunedì 5 december from 19:30 to 21:00
The monument is fully usable by the disabled people
Piazza Federico II di Svevia, 4 - Bari